| 23 February 2024, Friday |

What do we know about China’s respiratory illness surge?

Global attention has been drawn to the World Health Organization’s appeal for additional information regarding a spike in respiratory infections and pneumonia clusters among youngsters in China.

The WHO subsequently stated that health authorities had not found any uncommon or novel pathogens, and medical professionals and public health researchers concurred that there was no reason for concern on a global scale.

However, Taiwanese authorities this week recommended against traveling to China for the extremely young, the old, and people with weakened immune systems.

The rise in respiratory illnesses comes as China braces for its first full winter season since it lifted strict COVID-19 restrictions in December last year.

The spike in illness came into the spotlight when the WHO asked China for more information last week, citing a report by the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED) on clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children.

Some social media users have also posted photos of children receiving intravenous drips in hospital, while media in cities such as Xian in the northwest have posted videos of crowded hospitals, fanning concerns potential strains on the healthcare system.

One concern about the surge in respiratory illness is mycoplasma pneumoniae, which has also spiked in other countries.

Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead at the World Health Organization told reporters on Wednesday that mycoplasma pneumonia is not a reportable disease to the WHO, and it was on the rise for the last couple of months but now appears to be declining.

“We’re following up through our clinical networks and working with clinicians in China to better understand resistance to antibiotics, which is a problem across the world, but is a particular problem in the Western Pacific and South East Asia region,” she said.

  • Reuters